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Happy New Year/Welcome Home


On my first evening at Burning Man, our next-door neighbor Judy told me that she views the Burn as her New Year. Taking place as it does during the last week of the American summer, concluding on Labor Day, right before the start of the new school year, there’s certainly a major amount of regeneration and rejuvenation attached to the event.

For Campbell and I, this was doubly manifested on our return. For one thing, we drove back from La Guardia Airport on Tuesday afternoon not to our former “weekend house” (and unanticipated full-time residence for the last two years) up in Hunter, but to the finally- (almost-) finished house in Mount Tremper, a scattered hamlet that straddles the towns of Shandaken and Woodstock. (We are now officially residents in the town of Woodstock. Who’d have thought of it of an old punk-mod like me?) Normally, there would have been some big moving ceremony, but the process of building (and especially “almost-finishing”) the house took so long that we’ve found ourselves moving in gradually, and besides, we’re planning on keeping the décor minimal while we determine how we want to furnish and paint the new place. Still, it was a strange feeling Tuesday afternoon to bring the car up the driveway at Mount Tremper and say to Campbell, “We’re home,” and to find not just Posie and Noel ensconced in the place as expected, but our lovely cat Bixby busy wondering round, alternately purring like mad at the joy of having his family around him again and screaming like crazy to go outside and explore. Though we don’t have the beds fully set up yet, and we were all too tired to comment much about the occasion, Tuesday night marked the first time that the whole family, cat included, slept in our new house.

A long way from Woodstock: Tony and Campbell in the desert.

The second reason it felt like New Year came a few hours later when Campbell got up at the crack of dawn to start middle school. Given that our old house was 25 miles away from the school, and that our new place is less than 5 miles and a 5 minute drive, you can understand why we needed to move by Labor Day, with or without furnishings. Indeed, if there was an objection my wife had against my taking Campbell to Burning Man, it was not to do with nudity or other adult activities on site, but that we’d be home so soon before he started the new school (barely 12 hours), that he’d be too tired and jetlagged to function on that all-important first day.

Those highly legitimate concerns ultimately proved unfounded – in large part because Campbell had promised as much, as a deal for being taken to Burning Man. Having slept through both flights home, indeed almost sleepwalking his way through Houston airport in the middle of the night, he seemed bright and chipper both Tuesday afternoon on the drive home from La Guardia, and Wednesday afternoon, when I met him off the school bus to find that his first words were not about his new school, but to the effect that I was “embarrassing” him. “Next time you meet me, wait in the car,” he said, with the pout of the near-adolescent, before nonchalantly letting on that the first day at school had gone just “fine.” I guess we’re back in Camp Reality. Happy New Year to us.

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